Florida State Seminoles: Marcus Davis

Editor’s note: Each day this week Florida State reporter David M. Hale and Auburn reporter Greg Ostendorf will preview a position battle in Monday’s VIZIO BCS National Championship Game. Today's matchup is between Auburn’s wide receivers and Florida State’s defensive backs.

Auburn’s wide receivers: If there was ever a game for Auburn to stick to the run, this would be it. Quarterback Nick Marshall has struggled at times through the air and the Tigers are in for their most challenging test yet against a Florida State secondary that leads the nation in interceptions (25).

Expect a heavy dose of Marshall and Tre Mason running the read-option together like they’ve done all season.

Florida State still has to be wary of Auburn’s big-play ability. It starts with Sammie Coates who has emerged as a go-to wide receiver for the Tigers. He’s one of the fastest players in the SEC, if not the nation, and he leads the team with 38 catches for 841 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s second nationally in yards per catch (22.1) and all seven of his scores have come from more than 35 yards. It was his 39-yard touchdown grab in the final minute against Alabama that put Auburn in position to win that game.

The problem for the Tigers is that nobody has emerged opposite Coates. Freshman Marcus Davis had his moments early in the season, making key catches in critical situations. Ricardo Louis, who hauled in the 73-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass to beat Georgia, might be the most dangerous athlete on the team. But neither has been consistent.

When Auburn plays Florida State, it’s going to need a play in the passing game from somebody other than Coates. Whether it’s Davis, Louis or even tight end C.J. Uzomah, who’s healthy again, somebody is going to have to step up and make a play when their number is called. Nothing will come easy, though, against a talented Seminoles’ secondary.

Florida State’s secondary: Only five teams threw less often this season than Auburn, which runs the ball on 72 percent of its plays. When the Tigers do throw, however, they’ve mustered some big plays -- averaging 14 yards per completion.

The recipe for Auburn is pretty simple -- run, run, run, then go deep. It’s a plan that may run into some trouble against Florida State, however. The Seminoles’ secondary is the nation’s best for the second straight season. Lamarcus Joyner leads a deep and talented group that leads the nation in fewest yards per attempt (4.9), most interceptions (25) and lowest QBR allowed (18.1). Opponents have completed just 6 of 36 passes thrown 20 yards or more against them this year, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Coates and Louis both have good size to win some battles downfield, but Florida State can match that physicality with P.J. Williams (6-0, 190) and Ronald Darby (5-11, 190), who have both been exceptional this year. Darby has allowed just seven completions this year and allows the fifth-lowest completion percentage among AQ-conference defensive backs in the nation.

Marshall can keep some plays alive with his legs, giving his receivers a chance to get open downfield, but Florida State hasn’t been burned often this year. Sammy Watkins, Allen Hurns and Devin Street all found some success this season, which should provide a bit of optimism for Coates, but no QB has managed better than 7 yards per attempt against FSU’s secondary all year. In its last eight games, Florida State’s secondary is allowing just 4.5 yards per attempt with 6 TDs and 19 INTs.

Ostendorf: Edge Florida State

Hale: Edge Florida State

FSU expecting Hokies' 'A' game

November, 8, 2012
11/08/12
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Florida State can't officially lock up the ACC Atlatic Division with a win tonight, and Virginia Tech won't necessarily scratch its way back into the Coastal Division race with a win either, but for both teams, their seasons may largely be defined by this game.

If FSU wins, only battered Maryland sits between the Seminoles and the ACC championship game. If the Hokies win, it means a small bit of redemption during a lost season and a chance to avoid the ignominy of finishing at .500 or worse.

"It's a hard environment," EJ Manuel said of Virginia Tech's Lane Stadium. "Any team that goes in there and gets a win, you've earned it. We'd be fools to think we're not going to get their best game of the year. They may not have played as good as they had in years past, but I don't think we're going to see the same team we've seen on film the past couple weeks. We're going to see a great team, extreme energy, guys flying around. I know we're going to get their 'A' game."

With that in mind, here are a few key matchups and numbers to watch as Florida State and Virginia Tech get ready to face off.

NOLES TO WATCH

James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman. Florida State would love to control the ground game, and Wilder and Freeman have shown they're more than capable of doing that, even without injured starter Chris Thompson. Where they're more likely to be tested, however, is in the passing game, where Virginia Tech loves to bring the blitz on defense. How well the two young running backs can recognize and pick up blitzes will likely play a big role in how well FSU can throw the ball on the Hokies' D.

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NoleNation Q&A: FSU's Mike Martin

September, 19, 2012
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Florida State baseball has begun fall practice, and we checked in with head coach Mike Martin to see how his team is coming together after losing a number of key players and top signees to the MLB draft.

NoleNation: After the MLB signing deadline, you said you were having trouble sleeping thinking about all the holes you needed to fill. Are you feeling a bit more comfortable with things now?

Mike Martin: What you have to do is just move on. You can't dwell on the past. We had a number of outstanding arms that we had signed, but we also have an outstanding group of young men that are in here now. People are going to get opportunities that maybe would not have gotten opportunities this quick in their career, but we're excited for them to see where they go with it.

NN: You've got two pretty solid transfers in Marcus Davis and Brett Knief. How have they looked so far?

Martin: They've been very impressive. They're guys that -- of course, Knief has played in a Division-I program before -- but it's an opportunity for both of them. I think in the next couple of weeks we'll know more, but I've certainly been impressed with what I've seen so far.

NN: You've got a handful of big bats you'll need to replace, but you're also looking for a couple of guys to step in at the back end of the pen after Robert Benincasa left for the pros. Any early ideas of who can fill the void?

Martin: No, we've got two or three guys we're looking at. We know that Gage [Smith] can go into that role, but at the same time, Gage was so important to use being used in the middle. Your middle guy is one that enables the closer to pitch on a number of nights, and that was another reason that Benny had the success he did is Gage pitched so well to give him a chance.

NN: Another thing you talked about over the summer was how much a season of summer league ball can help some of the younger guys. Has anyone come back looking like they've taken a big step forward?

Martin: It's a little early to tell that because we haven't had a lot of practices to evaluate, but you see guys come back like [Luke] Weaver, who pitched in the Cape. Peter Miller pitched in the Cape. I've been pleased with the way they're approaching the art of pitching. When you go to a summer league, you learn a lot about yourself because you're playing against the best players in the country. It just does our guys so much good.

NN: How about physically? Have you been pleased with the shape the team is in as they've picked things back up this fall?

Martin: Oh yeah, guys know what the expectations are here and they've done a very good job of taking care of themselves. Now is the time to improve in that area because, of course, the fall is important when it comes to being evaluated, but it's even more important that you get in the weight room and use these four important months to get stronger and quicker.

NN: So as you go through fall practice over the next few weeks, what's the biggest thing you're looking for?

Martin: Mainly it's just implementing our system. We've got to get guys acclimated to what we're trying to do whether it's bunt, become better base runners or just learning how we play the game. You can call certain things fundamentals, but we'd rather refer to it as "our system." We've got some guys that are very, very far behind in learning the system and it's up to us to get that planted in their minds that, this is what we've got to do.

ATH Tarean Folston lives the dream 

August, 27, 2012
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It was a special Saturday for ESPN 150 athlete Tarean Folston (Cocoa, Fla./Cocoa) as the 5-foot-10, 190-pound senior led Cocoa to a 25-7 victory over Delray Beach (Fla.) American Heritage on ESPN.

Folston rushed for 131 yards on 15 carries and scored twice in the second quarter, easily outperforming fellow ESPN 150 prospect Greg Bryant (24 carries, 111 yards). Folston's first score, a 21-yard touchdown reception gave Cocoa a 10-0 lead and set the table for things to come.

"When I caught that pass it was like I was floating on air," Folston said. "Catching a touchdown in front of our fans on ESPN, it can't get better than that."
Looking forward to real, live football, NoleNation takes a run through Florida State’s 2012 schedule, going game-by-game to find the best storylines and matchups of the upcoming season.

Virginia Tech Hokies

Thursday, Nov. 8: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Va.

2011 record: 11-3 (7-1 ACC). Virginia Tech lost three games last season, and twice to Clemson. After falling to the Tigers 23-3 in early October, the Hokies were crushed again in the ACC title game, 38-10, before losing in overtime to Michigan in the Sugar Bowl.

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ACC SCOREBOARD

Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12